Friday, March 30, 2018

Quote of the Day (W. H. Auden, on the Way From ‘Miraculous Birth’ to ‘Dreadful Martyrdom’)

“About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.”—English poet W. H. Auden (1907-1973), “Musee des Beaux Arts,” in Another Time (1940)

W.H. Auden was inspired to write these verses by a December 1938 visit to the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels. Among the “masters” he might have been struck by would have been Dutch painter Cornelis Engebrechtsz (ca. 1461–1527), whose oil-and-wood painting The Crucifixion with Donors and Saints Peter and Margaret hangs in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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